Risk-Taking Genes Explored by UK Researchers

A GoodTherapy.org News Update

Most mental health professionals practicing today are well familiar with people afflicted by an addiction to gambling or risk-taking. One of the most prevalent reported complaints held by those seeking professional help, gambling addiction a fairly serious problem that finds a variety of outlets in modern society, making it quite difficult for some to resist. In the fight to learn as much as possible about this condition, extensive research has been performed in a variety of specific topics, and recently a team from the United Kingdom has approached chronically risky behavior from a genetic standpoint.

Hailing from the University College London, the team set out to determine whether a specific gene primarily responsible for the transport of serotonin in the brain had any bearing on people’s propensity to gamble. Thirty participants of various backgrounds but with two key attributes –either a long or a short pair of gene variants– were collected for the study. In the course of the research, the participants were given a task in which they had to decide whether or not to gamble a certain amount of cash. Interestingly, those who retained two pairs of short gene variants were more likely to take the offered gamble than their long-paired counterparts.

Publishing their results in the latest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, the team notes that singling out genes which may be responsible for various undesired behaviors can provide many options for medical health research and development. Of course, such studies also go a long way towards informing the realm of psychotherapy, which through understanding genetic links to various behaviors and conditions, can help people overcome even the greatest and seemingly most ingrained obstacles.

© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • tim tim

    tim tim

    May 13th, 2009 at 8:09 PM

    you write “Interestingly, those who retained two pairs of short gene variants were more likely to take the offered gamble than their long-paired counterparts.” I always thought those pairs we’re called balls :)

  • Sarah


    May 14th, 2009 at 2:22 AM

    Maybe this will only help to strengthen the premise that addictions like alcohol abuse run in families? Now there is some genetic proof to back this up?

  • Julianne


    May 14th, 2009 at 2:57 AM

    I would have never thought that gambling was genetic. Interesting.

  • Zillah


    May 14th, 2009 at 2:58 AM

    A lot of people have problems with gambling and I wonder how many seek help with this? I have seen just from working at a financial institution how bad their gambling can be. I do hope many seek help with this.

  • Sally


    May 15th, 2009 at 11:25 AM

    Can’t studies produce the outcome that you want them to have? There is no way that there can be any real proof of a gene that leaves people predisposed to addictive behaviors. Perhaps the type of environment they are raised in and the things that they see on an ongoing basis while they are growing up, but I do not buy the genetic theory at all.

  • Victoria


    May 19th, 2009 at 1:59 AM

    I kind of wonder the same thing as Sally.. The environment that these people are around and the friends or family members that do the same thing may want them to try gambling. Luckily, I have seen what this does to people and decide not to be like that. It is a little hard to believe that genes play a role in this.

  • Lizzie


    May 19th, 2009 at 5:48 AM

    My brother must have gotten all of the risk taking genes in our family- he has always been the one trying new things but them getting in trouble. maybe I am glad they skipped me.

  • Donna


    May 20th, 2009 at 3:49 AM

    maybe this is genetic. I’ve seen this run in families. Glad it’s not mine and I don’t have this problem. When theres a problem, i think it’s time to get help

  • Diana


    May 22nd, 2009 at 2:25 AM

    So why do siblings sometimes appear totally opposite in traits and personality? My sister is nothing like me. We are fraternal twins but she is the total opposite of me in a lot of things. We both have the same blood type but we dont think alike in anything.

  • Faye


    May 22nd, 2009 at 3:54 AM

    I can see both sides to the argument. On the one hand you always want to say that kids repeat the behavior that they grew up seeing on a daily basis and were around all of the time. On the other hand sometimes that makes no sense at all because kids are raised in good homes with no risk taking behavior and it is like they rebel and get into all of the mischief that they can possibly find. Maybe it is true that there are just some things that none of us are meant to know.

  • may


    May 23rd, 2009 at 11:25 AM

    It is so hard to tell how someone will act or be wether it be genitic or the environment if they gamble or take risks.

  • Eddie


    May 26th, 2009 at 8:11 PM

    Is this risk taking only with regards to pursuits or is this also indicative of people who like to live on the edge. Opting for a dangerous career or delving in crimes for the thrill of it? Has this also something to do with the tendency of becoming a psychopath?

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